According to an article published in the British Journal of Cancer, treatment with epoetin alfa (EPO) reduced the need for blood transfusions and improved quality of life for patients with ovarian cancer who were treated with platinum-based (cisplatin or carboplatin) chemotherapy.

Anemia is a common adverse effect of some chemotherapy regimens. It is characterized by low levels of circulating red blood cells, which are responsible for delivering oxygen to tissues throughout the body.

Common symptoms of anemia are severe fatigue, shortness of breath, diminished activity levels, and a reduced overall feeling of well-being.

Severe anemia often requires treatment with blood transfusions, which have associated risks of infection, rejection, and increased medical costs. Furthermore, severe anemia may cause a delay in cancer treatment, resulting in less favorable chances of a cure or optimal long-term survival.

Use of medications to treat anemia has been shown to have several benefits in cancer patients, including improved quality of life and decreased need for blood transfusions. Medications such as EPO or Aranesp® (darbepoetin) stimulate the body to produce more red blood cells, ultimately reducing anemia and its long-term effects.

Researchers from Greece recently conducted a clinical trial to evaluate the use of EPO in women with ovarian cancer who were treated with platinum-based chemotherapy. This trial included 182 patients with ovarian cancer who received either EPO three times per week plus best supportive care (BSC) or BSC alone (control group).

Patients treated with EPO had improvements in anemia and quality of life.

  • Anemia was improved among patients treated with EPO compared to patients in the control group.
  • Blood transfusions were required in 31% of patients in the control group compared to only 8% of patients treated with EPO.
  • Patients treated with EPO reported an improved quality of life compared to those in the control group.

The researchers concluded that treatment with EPO appears to reduce the need for blood transfusions and improve quality of life for patients with ovarian cancer who are treated with platinum-based chemotherapy. These results add to findings from other studies indicating the benefits experienced by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy who are treated for anemia.

Reference: Wilkinson PM, Antonopoulos M, Lahousen M, et al. Epoetin alfa in platinum-treated ovarian cancer patients: results of a multinational, multicentre, randomized trial. *British Journal of Cancer.*2006;94:947-954.

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